Modernising Approach To Get Ahead Of The Digital Evidence Challenge

Because of the explosion of data, digital investigations are becoming an essential aspect of evidence analysis. Smartphones, computers, tablets and other connected devices have a wealth of information that can shed light on how crimes are committed. Digital evidence has become an essential component of investigations.

According to a 2019 European Commission assessment, electronic evidence is now required in approximately 85% of criminal cases. However, the time necessary to process, extract and analyse enormous volumes of data presents significant hurdles to agencies, potentially causing delays in digital investigations and jeopardising their capacity to keep their organisations and communities safe.

Challenges encompassing the modern digital evidence and analysis landscape

⮚     Increase in Cybercrime

Cybercrime is reaching new heights due to the increasing popularity of digital gadgets. The general public frequently perceives cybercrime as dangers perpetrated by hackers, such as phishing and internet fraud. However, many more crimes come under this category, including cyber-enabled crimes, which are more typical crimes committed in the physical world but facilitated by digital equipment and Internet access.

⮚     Dealing with massive data

In most circumstances, gathering digital evidence is simple. However, the difficult aspect is securing and safeguarding it against data breaches, cyber-attacks and tampering. Since the tempering is done so discretely, it is challenging to mitigate such threats. Digital evidence currently exists in various formats, originating from various technologies such as CCTV, body cameras, drone cameras and home security cameras, etc. The difficulty for agencies is that the volume of digital evidence is growing exponentially. Moreover, as forensic examiners attempt to handle and analyse an overwhelming number of devices, agencies are experiencing significant backlogs. Such delays stymie investigations since data is important to understand the circumstances of a crime. 

⮚     Management of Access

Agencies must retain digital evidence in a controlled environment or secure physical location, with access restricted to authorised persons only. This is a major issue that agencies face when dealing with digital evidence, especially when there is a large volume of information. 

⮚     Mistakes & Errors

Errors are unavoidable due to inadvertent biases, excessive workload, technology usage faults, random incidents, etc. It is critical to have trained employees with the necessary knowledge and experience. Any little mistake could render evidence inadmissible in court. 

Leveraging a modernising approach to get ahead of the digital evidence challenge

The correct digital approach and tools can help organisations better use their existing technology investments and resources, improving delivery times and ensuring that digital evidence reaches investigators and other stakeholders in the justice system as soon as feasible. Supporting digital forensic examiners with automation technology can help streamline evidence processing across their workflows, reducing time to evidence and eradicating data backlogs while freeing up forensic examiner time to focus on more complex analysis.

The paradigm shift for the new digital evidence management system must also foster increased collaboration at all levels. Enabling more efficient communication across various stakeholders, regardless of physical location, can significantly improve case turnaround times and quality while lowering costs. Analytics technologies can also effectively increase the efficiency and effectiveness of digital evidence challenges.

To foster a streamlined digital evidence process, modernising the approach, as explained below, allows organisations to make more informed decisions.

●       A centralised platform with numerous functions: Traditional systems for digital forensics and evidence management are frequently compartmentalised by application, department and, in some cases, geographic location. Access to information in a centralised repository eliminates the need to search through many physical and digital systems. Centralisation saves time by eliminating the need to travel, lowers overhead costs and increases security. This enables forensic specialists to benefit from the capacity to run many tools on the same platform while having the flexibility to access data sources when and when needed, allowing evidence investigations to move more swiftly. Evidence can also be accessed remotely, allowing investigators to upload and examine key evidence from the field. Furthermore, a centralised platform streamlines data intake, archiving and backup so that they may be conducted concurrently, further accelerating workflows.

●       Scalability for the future: The digital evidence system must keep up with the ongoing storage and processing capacity development. This includes the capacity to add nodes, expand storage, and expand networking as needed.

●       Historical evidence migration: Some cases may extend back years or even decades, and the evidence related to them must be preserved. As technologies become obsolete, data must be made inexpensive so that vital evidence is not lost when official support for related devices ends. In addition, historical evidence absorbed into the system must stay compliant.

●       Analytics and automation: Digital evidence can be held on the cloud, on-premises or in a hybrid system. Scalability, advanced analytics, easy data sharing and increased workflows are all possible when digital evidence, data and video analytics are all accessible within a secure multi-cloud or on-premise environment. Advanced analytics, such as artificial intelligence or machine learning, can automate and facilitate the intake, search, sharing and analysis of digital evidence. For instance, it can recognise trends in digital evidence procedures and then provide recommendations to investigators, such as whether an unconsidered piece of evidence could be valuable in the current case. As the amount of information available grows, proactive prompting will become increasingly vital in assisting investigators to stay on top of the available evidence.

●       Annotations and Editing: Although the original files must be kept secure to maintain the chain of custody and make them acceptable as evidence, it is also critical that different stages of the investigation can add annotations or act on them in other ways. For example, a still image or video may be cropped to emphasise a detail, a single frame from a film could be retrieved to depict a critical occurrence, or the faces of witnesses could be blacked out to protect their identity. 

When cases get to court, digital forensic evidence collection and investigations involve various parties, from various detectives to other agencies to legal teams. Superior officers may be called in, and cases may be passed across teams. Solid collaboration tools, such as the capacity to gather pieces of evidence and link them or securely exchange them between stakeholders, are therefore necessary.

Evidence is most vulnerable during data transit since it might be breached, disclosed or tampered with. It is extremely difficult to safeguard digital evidence while it is in transit. Storing on standard devices such as USBs or laptops with only password protection is insufficient because these can be easily stolen and hacked. Simple internet transfers via email are even more risky. As a result, when selecting a digital evidence management solution, ensure it conforms with these regulations and follows all the necessary protocols to ensure secure transfer.

Organisations can leverage the cutting-edge technology of Netrika and its DFIR specialists to respond to digital fraud, malware infection, hacker attacks, data theft and handling digital evidence. Our DFIR experts review data on digital assets across desktops, mobile phones, enterprise networks, cloud deployments, the surface web, and the dark and deep web. They can delve deep to find the underlying cause of the incident.

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